ESSAY 2 – College

 

In an earlier essay I have written about Mrs. Cockefair, a teacher at the University of Kansas City with whom I had the incredibly lucky happenstance to have a course when I started going to college.  That was the summer of 1949, and that summer I made top grades.  I believe I was removed from probationary status at that point and became a student in good standing.  One would think that I had enough good luck to last me a long time, but actually that was not the end of my luck.

 

In the semester starting in September of 1949, I took a psychology course.  I chose that course because in high school I had one class in psychology from a very good teacher, and had done very well.  I thought I should continue and see how it went.  My recollection is somewhat hazy about exactly it came about, but I met an instructor of psychology (William Cadman) during this time.  He was a clinical psychologist, and in charge of the training of Masters Degree students who were interested in clinical work.

 

Let me digress a bit to set the stage of where mental health in Missouri was in the 40s and early 50s.  There were no drugs as we have now which affect various areas of the central nervous system, and we had very little in the way of practical psychological tools with which to supply help for patients.  The State provided State Hospitals (meaning hospital for the insane).  These were huge facilities with many buildings grouped together.  There was a “back ward”, a building where patients for whom there was “no hope” were housed.  They sat in their chairs or on beds all day, and had no ability to control their bodily functions.  As barbaric as it sounds, they were hosed down frequently to clean them up.  When patients were more able to control themselves, but were acting out their emotions, straightjackets were the tool of choice.  Around 1947, 48, or 49, the powers that were in existence at the State Hospital in St Joseph, Missouri began to try to do something for patients beside just store them in the hopes they got well. 

 

Willis McCann, a Diplomat of Clinical Psychology began trying to relate to patients in a humane way.  He and Bill Cadman got together and agreed to use St Joseph State Hospital as a training station for graduate students in psychology from the University of Kansas City.  As I said, my recollection of exactly how all this came about is hazy, but Bill and I got along, and he thought I would do well coming with the group to St Joseph and learning about clinical psychology first hand.  Mind you this is 1950 – I am a young kid of about 19 and I have not had any courses in clinical psychology (no abnormal psychology, no courses in psychological testing, or anything like that).  So I went along.  In fact I spent about 1 ½ years going 3 days a week – driving 1 ½ hours each way (like Joy - a friend of mine in Chongquing - does), working full days work at the hospital. 

 

The first day I was there, Dr. McCann and Bill introduced me to a patient and told me the woman was a Catatonic Schizophrenic.  As I said, I had no psychological background, and had no idea what that meant.  I spent the next several hours trying to get her to talk to me or to say anything.  She made some effort to speak toward the end of my stint with her, but eventually I stopped, and returned to the two of them, completely discouraged, and exhausted.  They laughed about it and explained that my getting her to move and try to speak at all had been a tremendous success.  They then told me what Catatonic means. 

 

Dr. McCann was interested in group psychotherapy and he, Bill Cadman, Donald Brown (a graduate student), and someone else, wrote a paper which the Psychological Monograph published in 1950 on this type of therapy.  But I really did not like group therapy (and never have since), and I was given a caseload of patients for individual psychotherapy under Bill’s supervision. 

 

Somewhere in this time a projective psychological test called the Szondi test came out.  It was from Germany and all that was written on it was in German.  So I translated the German text which I think was called Triebdiagnostics (Drive Diagnosis) from German to English.  This is a relatively simple task because it is scientific German and once you get a set of basic words, you just begin to string them together.  I became quite good with the test, and took part in staff meetings where I would report the results of the test.  At one such staff meeting, my huge lack of acumen was clearly evident when Orr Mullinax, the superintendent of the hospital, asked me if a patient we were staffing, and whom I had tested, was an Obsessive Compulsive.  I had to confess that I had never had abnormal psychology and had no idea what that meant.  I described the personality of the patient as the test had revealed it, but couldn’t put a label with it.

 

During that time I took an undergraduate course in Intelligence Testing and learned the Wechsler and Binet tests.  But the projective tests – the Rorschach and Thematic tests - were graduate courses and "off boundaries" to me.  So, I read the books, taught myself how to administer and interpret the tests, and because I was at the hospital, I could use the tests in my diagnostic battery.  I became proficient and knowledgeable enough to be able to assist the graduate students who were having a hard time understanding their classroom work in projective testing.

 

It was a great year and a half of experience and a great time in school learning about psychology and other matters.  So once again I had a tremendous amount of luck and ended up having an experience that most people can never get – and certainly do not get at such a young age.  Joy has told me that in China there are three licenses, licenses 3 to 1 with 3 being the least qualified.  I would have ranked at about 5 for licenses, but sometimes I was doing a 3’s work  and sometimes doing I was doing a 2’s work.

I went to school day and night during this time.  When I was not at school or at the Hospital, I was with Bill Cadman and several graduate students talking about psychology.  We would go to a restaurant (most frequently to Allen’s drive-in restaurant) and sit around for hours talking about psychology.  We often were there until after midnight, and then up early to head up to St Joseph.    

 

But then I made a choice that turned out not to be so lucky.  It was a choice that must wait for some future essay to be unfolded.